If only I knew the secrets of teen psychology! As a mother of a teenager, I am constantly perplexed! The world seems to have grown up with the common phrase that men repeatedly utter of “I don’t understand women”. I say that “I don’t understand teenagers” is far more real and relevant. I do not understand the teenage brain and I am forever shaking my head at what my teenage boy and girl do. If I had an insight into teen psychology, I might understand why teens see the world differently.
On CSI Miami, they once said that kids will tidy but they won’t clean. Teens are quite capable of cleaning, but what good is cleaning when tidying will suffice. Why bother wiping the dust off things when you can shift them to a new position and make them look as good as new? It isn’t that the ways your teen sees the world are that different from the ways you see the world. It is just that there is little consequence for their actions in their world. In their world, another stain is just another thing to tolerate, and a messy bedroom is nothing compared when compared to the trauma of being forced to clean it.
The way a teen sees it, if you cannot see it when you first enter the room, then it is all fine. A teen can spend more time hiding mess than he or she does actually tidying it. This means stuffing items under beds and desks. It also means the more subtle things such as not vacuuming under a table or picking up a coaster to wipe under it.
In the mind of a teen, he or she is doing you a favor by not asking for something if you are going to say no. The teen is going to do it anyway, but not having to put you through the harrows of saying no is far kinder in your teen’s eyes. It is just another one of those skewered ways teens see things. That is why you hear about tattoos and drunken behavior only after the event.
There are thousands of excuses and your teen is compiling list after list of excuses right now. What is more perplexing is how your teen grows to internalise the excuses that he or she makes. You may complain about the mess in your teen’s room, and your teen may reply with, “I like to have things on display. I know where everything is if I can see it.”
The trouble is that he or she starts to agree with the logic of the excuse and begins to believe it. The truth is that the teen would rather do hundreds of other things rather than clean his or her room, but the excuse sounds more plausible and harder to argue against so it is defended beyond reason.
Have you ever given your teen a list of things to do and have returned hours later to find that only one or two of the things has been done. Yet, when you question the teen, he or she is genuinely hurt because the tasks he or she has done are 100% perfect.
What has actually happened is that the teen has taken too long in doing your tasks and has been very unproductive, and yet to the teen, such an investment of time feels like an achievement that should be defended.
In your teen’s mind, you are very flexible, and he or she is surprised when it turns out you are not. For example, in your teen’s eyes you do not mean be home by 10:30pm, you mean be home by 10:30pm-ish, which means you do not mind if he or she walks in at around 12:30am. What is more surprising is the look of shock on your teen’s face when it turns out you didn’t mean 10:30pm-ish.
You’re shouting at them so they assume that is an appropriate way to respond. Regardless of what you might think, they are still impressionable and still look to you for how to behave. You shout so their instinct is to shout and of course, they think to make their point and win the argument they shout louder and for longer.
Let me finish with this – teenagers’ brains work differently, so they will never see the world as you. I have recently ordered a book called The Teenage Brain by Dr. Frances Jensen, a neuroscientist. It claims that because the area of the brain responsible for impulse control, judgement, mood and emotions, i.e. the frontal lobe, is the last part to develop fully. So, it’s not that your teen is being difficult. In the teenage world, your teen is completely and totally normal.
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